E90-2 and E90-3 American Caramel cards are routinely ‘lost in the shuffle’
The brethren to the popular E90-1 American Caramel release are often forgotten — here’s why
The E90-1 American Caramel set is one of the most popular early candy card sets of them all and there’s good reason for that. It includes one of the most iconic pre-war rookie cards in the first issue of Shoeless Joe Jackson. It’s got almost all of the big stars, including Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Cy Young, and Christy Mathewson. And, while there are no shortage of rarities in it, most of the cards are common enough that full sets are routinely pursued.
What not all collectors realize, however, is that the E90-1 set is only one part of the E90 series.
See, in addition to the large E90-1 set, American Caramel issued two smaller follow-up sets in 1910. Today, these are known as E90-2 and E90-3.
About the Sets
It is easy to see why E90-1, E90-2, and E90-3 were all grouped together. The cards are all similar in appearance and were distributed by the American Caramel Company. But while they all fall under that E90 designation, they are all part of three distinctly different sets. Part of that is because of the players featured (more on that in a bit) but part of it is because of slight design differences.
E90-1 and E90-2 cards both have the same back advertisement, touting 100 subjects in the set. But the biggest design difference is that the E90-2 cards have player names/team in a different font and with blue ink as opposed to black. E90-3 cards are similar in appearance to E90-1 but have different backs with no reference to 100 subjects. Those minor differences make it easy to see that these are three separate issues.
E90-2 American Caramel cards were issued in 1910 after production of the E90-1 set had begun. The E90-2 set is a commemorative set of sorts as it honored the 1909 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates. The set has only 11 cards in it but is not a cheap one to complete. That’s because the Honus Wagner card in it is expensive, even in low-grade condition. A PSA 1, for example, sold for nearly $4,000 this year in an REA auction.
The E90-3 set is also a team issue but features two teams — the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. There’s considerably more star power in this one. While Wagner and Hall of Famer Fred Clarke are really the only big names in E90-2, E90-3 has many more. The E90-3 set has only 20 cards in it but five players (Three Finger Brown, Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, and Ed Walsh) are Hall of Famers. And one of the most expensive cards is banned player Chick Gandil of 1919 Chicago White Sox fame.
Gandil’s cards are generally priced as those of a Hall of Famer but this one has extra appeal. Since he began his major league career in 1910, the card is a legitimate rookie issue, driving prices for it up even further. Even in low-grade, the card will generally cost most than $1,000.
Explaining the Lack of Interest
The E90-2 and E90-3 cards are rare but they don’t generate the same level of interest from collectors. There are probably a bunch of reasons for that but there are three primary factors at play here in my estimation.
First, these are team sets. While they are obviously legitimate sets, they are not quite as desirable as others including players from every team. Second, in E90-2 particular, there is a noticeable lack of star power. Once you get past Wagner and, to a lesser degree, Clarke, there’s little there.
Finally, the rarity and pricing is a factor. Simply put, not everyone will have the resources or patience for collecting these cards. Decent commons above low-grade condition are difficult to get for less than $100. And cards like Wagner, Gandil, and the other Hall of Famers will price some collectors out. Those two are the most desirable cards in the sets but many collectors couldn’t even afford them.
As an aside, I think the sets are both helped and harmed by the E90-1 set. As someone who is personally collecting E90-1, let me explain.
E90-1 is a massive issue that is incredibly difficult. Probably about 2/3 of the set is made up of tough cards to find. I would suspect that those most interested in these sets (other than, perhaps, team collectors) would be ones that are collecting E90-1. But the reality is that E90-1 is just such as a massive effort, it’s easy to want to avoid E90-2 and E90-3 entirely. Few have the patience and resources to even finish E90-1.
The flip side to that is, there are surely some collectors that are drawn to the latter two sets because of their interest in E90-1. I have a modest interest in pursuing those sets, for example, and I can safely say that is only because I am collecting E90-1 cards. If not for the E90-1 set, my interest in E90-2 and E90-3 would go from minimal to zilch. I have no doubt that many are drawn to E90-2 and E90-3 because they were first interested in E90-1.
The E90-2 and E90-3 sets won’t be for everyone. And judging by a pretty minimal lack of interest from many collectors, finding those interested in these sets is difficult. Still, the cards sell for healthy amounts so there’s clear competition for them. And if you’re a fan of the E90-1 American Caramel set, looking at these two issues might be worth your time.